The Full Works Concert - Wednesday 12 June: Russian Nights

Join Jane Jones for a feast of Russian music on tonight's Full Works Concert.

Tonight Jane Jones heads off to Russia for a concert which features some of the giants of Russian music.

The programme gets under way with the fizzing overture to Glinka's pioneering opera, Ruslan and Ludmilla. Glinka was the first Russian composer to receive wide recognition and is often regarded as the father of Russian music, influencing his fellow countrymen to produce a distinctive style all of their own. The opera is a folk tale with all the necessary ingredients - a beautiful princess and her valiant suitor, an evil wizard, battles, abduction and rescue. Tchaikovsky dubbed Ruslan “the Tsar of operas”. The overture has become a concert hall favourite in its own right. It's performed tonight by the Kirov Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev, pictured above.

Sergei Rachmaninov wrote his third piano concerto especially for his 1909 North American tour and first performed it on 28 November with the New York Symphony Orchestra. The concerto is grander, fuller, and more expansive in tone and style than the popular second – with the soloist stretched to the very limits of his ability. It is certainly the most demanding of all Romantic piano concertos and one of the most electrifying.

Prokofiev was 26 when he composed his First Symphony and had a very clear plan when it came to writing the work: ‘I thought that if Haydn were alive today he would compose just as he did before, but at the same time would include something new in his manner of composition. I wanted to compose such a symphony: a symphony in the classical style’. The work has become one of the most popular symphonies for listeners and players alike. 

The Symphony No. 2 in C minor is one of Tchaikovsky's most joyful compositions. It was successful right from its premiere and was also acclaimed by the group of nationalistic Russian composers known as 'The Five' who applauded Tchaikovsky's use of three Ukrainian folk songs to great effect. The Symphony was nicknamed the 'Little Russian'.

The concert ends with piano pieces by Anatoly Liadov. He was a fine pianist, highly thought of by Mussorgsky and a student of Rimsky-Korsakov. A Musical Snuffbox, written in 1893, is perhaps the most famous of a large number of piano miniatures he wrote.

Mikhail Glinka: Russlan and Ludmilla – Overture
Valery Gergiev conducts the Kirov Orchestra 

Sergei Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor
Piano: Vladimir Ashkenazy
Andre Previn conducts the London Symphony Orchestra

Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No.1 in D major (‘Classical’)
Seiji Ozawa conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.2 in C minor (‘Little Russian’)
Andrew Litton conducts the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Anatole Liadov: A Musical Snuffbox
Piano: Anthony Goldstone